People with HIV have a 40 percent greater chance of ischemic stroke than those without the virus; however, having high CD4 cells erases this increases risk. Publishing their findings in the journal AIDS, researchers conducted a cohort study of 24,768 HIV-positive people and 257,600 matched HIV-negative people who were members of Kaiser Permanente Northern and Southern California between 1996 and 2011.

There were 151 strokes among the HIV-positive participants, for a stroke rate of 125 per 100,000 person years, compared with 1,128 strokes among the HIV-negative participants, for a stroke rate of 74 per 100,000 person years. After adjusting for various factors, the researchers found that having HIV was linked to a 40 percent greater risk of stroke. However, when CD4 cells were higher than 500 among the HIV-positive participants, they had the same risk of stroke as the HIV-negative group.

“Recent CD4 cell count was the strongest HIV-specific risk factor, suggesting an effect of current immunodeficiency on ischemic stroke risk,” senior author Michael J. Silverberg, PhD, MPH, an investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California, said in a release. “Notably, HIV-positive individuals with recent CD4 cell counts of 500 or more had no excess risk of ischemic stroke compared with HIV-negative individuals.”

“Given recent calls to reduce or abandon CD4 monitoring among HIV-positive individuals with viral suppression, our data suggest that the CD4 cell count may be useful beyond its role in HIV disease monitoring,” Julia L. Marcus, PhD, MPH, also with Kaiser's Division of Research, said in the same release.

To read the press release, click here.

To read the journal abstract, click here.